The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Seated in Royal Ease
late 10th–early 11th century
Copper alloy, silver inlay
H. 22 3/4 in. (57.8 cm); W. 18 in. (45.7 cm); D. 12 in. (30.5 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 1992
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 249
The Buddhist embodiment of infinite compassion, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, is rarely represented in the rajalilasana seated posture more associated with rulers and Hindu gods. Monumental metal sculpture represents the apogee of Khmer artistic production, and this image is one of few large-scale images from the Angkorian period to have survived intact. In Khmer royal-cult practices, a close identification between a ruler and his chosen deity was customary; thus this figure, so unusually seated in a kinglike posture, may have been intended to serve as both a representation of the bodhisattva and a portrait of the ruler-patron for whom it was commissioned. Without the representation of the Amitabha Buddha, the spiritual mentor of Avalokiteshvara, in its elaborately coiffured chignon, this realistic image could be mistaken for a secular portrait.